Shawnee Planning Commission again approves apartment complex opposed by some residents
The decision to approve a zoning request change and preliminary plan for Vantage at Shawnee apartments is heading back to the City Council after the city’s Planning Commission approved the plan for a second time.
The commission had to reevaluate the plan based on traffic concerns after its initial recommendation failed to reach the necessary number of votes at City Hall to overcome a protest petition by residents. Residents around the proposed apartment complex at Pflumm Road and 62nd Street gathered enough signatures to force a super-majority vote by the council last month, meaning seven members of the council had to vote in favor of the project to pass it. Only five voted for it. The council needed six votes to kill the proposal, which it was also unable to attain. The only option left after that was to remand it back to the planning commission over concerns about traffic in the area.
Originally, the Planning Commission voted 8-2 in favor of the project, with Alan Willoughby and Doug Hill voting against and one commissioner absent. At Monday’s Planning Commission, the vote was almost identical at 9-2, and the City Council will reconsider the proposal Jan. 25.
Several members of the Planning Commission were able to ask questions and express concerns about traffic in the area, which the developer estimates will increase from current levels by about 2,000 trips per day. That equates to a little more than six trips per day per unit for the $35 million, 312-unit apartment complex.
According to city traffic studies, the average daily traffic for the section of Pflumm Road in question is currently about 11,000 vehicles per day. The four-lane arterial can handle 20,000 vehicles per day before it experiences very low levels of service, according to the city.
The developers for Vantage at Shawnee, America First MultiFamily Investors LP and Clermont LLC, used a 2014 traffic study done for the then-proposed Cobblestone Court project for a majority of its traffic estimates. Cobblestone, which received overwhelming support from surrounding area residents, was a retirement community that included some commercial buildings.
According to the city’s staff report, the Cobblestone Court traffic study indicates the existing street network would be able to support the addition of traffic from the site and that there would be no operational issues expected at any of the surrounding intersections. No separate turn lanes at Pflumm Road or 62nd Street would need to be constructed, and because of the proximity to the intersection with 62nd Street, a traffic signal would not be required on Pflumm Road, the city said.
Traffic studies done by the developers of Vantage at Shawnee calculated the difference of estimated traffic from the Cobblestone Project compared with theirs and determined there would be a 20 percent reduction during morning peak hours and a 55 percent reduction during evening hours. The main difference, the developer explained, was that the commercial aspect of the Cobblestone Project was expected to generate higher numbers of trips than residential units.
Hill said he was concerned about traffic backing up on southbound Pflumm Road near Shawnee and that traffic could potentially back up beyond 62nd Street. Willoughby said that he and residents in the neighborhoods south and west of the development were worried about traffic using neighborhood roads to access Johnson Drive and Widmer Road when Broken Arrow School and students on foot are in the area.
Get the latest news from the Shawnee Dispatch in your Facebook feed: theshawneedispatch
A traffic engineer for the developer said the new traffic from the apartment complex would only create a less-than-10-second difference at the intersections south of the development.
City Engineer and Development Services Director Doug Wesselschmidt added that the section of Pflumm Road was widened from a two-lane ditch section road to a four-lane arterial road in the early 1990s. It was built, he said, to handle not only traffic at that time, but the traffic that would be generated by development along the corridor.
Planning Commission Chair Augie Bogina said the traffic concerns surrounding Vantage at Shawnee reminded him of similar ones raised about he Wal-Mart at 75th Street and Nieman Road. Bogina said those traffic concerns were proven unfounded after the Wal-Mart opened and that the traffic studies used in the development’s plan were accurate. However, he said, the Planning Commission could put in a stipulation regarding Vantage at Shawnee that the developer pay for a traffic light if the city deems it necessary in the future after the apartments are built.
Commissioner Les Smith instead motioned to forward the recommendation without any additional stipulations, which was seconded by Commissioner Kathy Peterson and easily passed.
A dozen residents attended Monday's meeting but were unable to comment due to state law regarding zoning applications that are remanded to Planning Commission meetings. There will be opportunity for public comment at the Jan. 25 City Council meeting. The City Council will still need 7 votes to pass the measure, but will only need a simple majority to kill it.